Photo provided by the firm.
The harrowing early years of Andrew Hall’s life and his family’s remarkable journey through the Holocaust of World War II and its aftermath have served as “the driving force” of his legal career. Surviving the genocide of the Jews has instilled in him a type of perseverance that is often necessary in the legal actions he files on behalf of victims of state sponsored terrorism.
Earlier in his career, Hall, founder of Hall, Lamb and Hall of Miami, drew recognition for his defense of Nixon adviser John D. Ehrlichman. He has since enjoyed great success in a wide range of traditional civil litigation matters. In the past 20 years, he also developed an impressive track record in winning judgments against foreign governments, such as those of Sudan, Libya, and Cuba, for their roles in terrorist events and torture.
Lawdragon is especially appreciative of Andrew Hall’s participation in our Lawyer Limelight series at the start of April. Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom HaShoah, begins on the evening of April 7 and continues until April 8. A number of states recognize April as Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month; April 7 is also Genocide Memorial Day in Rwanda.
Lawdragon: I read that you were born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1944. Can you describe how your family made its way to America, and where you all ended up?
Andy Hall: In 1944, I was born Andrzej Cheslsv Horowitz. My family was hiding in a coal cellar in Warsaw, Poland. From 1942 until 1945 my father posed as a Gentile to avoid the Nazi policy regarding Jews. I was born during the Rising, an unsuccessful attempt by the Polish people to liberate Warsaw from the Nazis. After the Rising failed, our family escaped through the sewers and then travelled to Krakow. The Nazis had imposed a “shoot on site” law for anyone still in the city. We stayed there until the war’s end in 1945.
After the war my father became the Superintendent of Insurance for the Polish government. In 1946, he was arrested and imprisoned when the Communist party took control of the country. My mother sent my brother and me to the German border. There we were placed with a group of Jewish war orphans attempting to reach Palestine. At the time, she felt that was the only way to keep us safe because families in our circumstances disappeared and were never heard from again.
During our travels, I became seriously ill and was malnourished. We were in a Displaced Persons camp near Munich. My brother, Allan, wrote to a cousin in Palestine telling him that our parents were dead (we believed we were orphans by then) and requesting that our cousin transport us to Palestine. That cousin went to Munich to do just that when he serendipitously bumped into my parents. My parents had been looking for us for almost one year without success. They had run out of clues as to where we were. My cousin’s being at this place in Munich was why we were reunited. From Munich my family initially went to Paris and after several months travelled to the United States. We arrived on a Diplomatic Visa using the name Horskey. We stayed in New York until 1952 and then moved to Miami Beach in 1952.
In 1954, we changed our surname to Hall. I have lived in the Miami area since then, with the exception of college, law school and one year in Atlanta. I attended College and Law School at the University of Florida in Gainesville. My life’s history has really been a mix of luck and pluck, on the part of so many good people who had the will and tenacity to help us endure in the face of evil. It has made me who I am today.
LD: I know that you are very active in civic affairs, including serving as chair of the Miami Beach Holocaust Memorial. In your professional life, what impact has your family's wartime experience had on your law practice and the course of your career?
AH: My family’s early struggles have been the driving force of my career. I have a deep-seeded reaction to the abuse of power. Lawyers are unique because we have the power to defend those who have been victimized by the misuse or abuse power, whether it be private individuals, corporations or governments.
LD: What led to you attending law school and pursuing a legal career as opposed to some other field?
AH: Quite honestly, becoming a lawyer was somewhat of a fluke. I originally studied pre-med as a chemistry major in college. I took the LSAT on a lark. Based on my score, I was automatically admitted by the University of Florida’s Law School without an application. I took that as a sign and decided to go. Becoming a trial lawyer was the smartest mistake I ever made.
LD: Not many attorneys handle cases involving state-sponsored terrorism. What was your first case in this area that allowed you to develop such a niche?
AH: My first case started in 1992 when a friend asked for help regarding Chad Hall (we are not related). Chad was working in Kuwait defusing munitions left from the first Gulf war. Two Iraqi officers kidnapped him in Kuwait, transported Chad to Iraq and tortured him. We took the case. Later other victims of kidnapping and torture were added to this case. After 10 years, we won a judgment against the Iraqi government for victims of state-sponsored terrorism. Collecting was equally difficult. I remember attending a meeting with a State Department official who told me we had no chance of ever collecting on our judgment. That’s when I knew something had to change; we needed an avenue for these victims to receive their compensation.
In 1992 the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 prohibited suits against foreign nations. We joined with other terrorism victims in lobbying Congress. In 1996, the law was changed to allow civil lawsuits against seven designated state sponsors of terrorism: Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. Then we re-filed the original suit under the new law. After judgment, we identified Iraqi assets that could be seized but these assets remained unobtainable by Presidential Order. We lobbied Congress again. In 2003, we were instrumental in the passage of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. This act allowed our plaintiffs and other victims to collect on the judgment through the frozen assets of the defendant terror-sponsoring states.
After 11½ years we finally were able to collect for these victims. After that I went on to successfully sue Libya, the Republic of Sudan and Cuba for acts of terror that injured or cost American lives over the past two decades.
I could not have more pride in representing these victims. I am able to give voice to all victims of terror across the world sending a message to states who sponsor terrorism - they are being held accountable in U.S. courts. The results also enhance public policy because state funding and support is the lifeblood of terrorist activity.
LD: Please talk a bit about the cases you’ve brought against the Sudanese government over the bombing of the USS Cole, both on behalf of the families of the victims and the injured sailors. Have you been able to collect payment?
AH: We have fully collected on the first judgment for compensatory damages for the families of the sailors who died in the USS Cole bombing. We are currently working to increase the first award and to collect on a $319,000,000 judgment for those sailors who were injured in the Cole bombing. We will continue to pursue Sudan’s frozen assets and funds until these claims are paid.
LD: I imagine collecting the judgments is a typical problem in these types of cases, for example, the $2.8B award for the Cuban exile who claimed the Castro government tortured his family, as well as the $18M Award for the contractors in Iraq?
AH: In Beatty v. Iraq, we were able to fully collect on the judgment for our clients. We are currently collecting on the judgment secured on behalf of Gustavo Villoldo, a Cuban American and his family who were terrorized and tortured by the Cuban government. The next step is identifying the frozen assets which are available inside the U.S. Beyond that effort, there are a host of remedies available, including pursuing those companies who are profiting through their business with the Cuban government.
LD: Given these challenges, what draws you to these types of cases? What is satisfying about them?
AH: I had no idea how difficult it would be to prosecute or to collect on these terrorism cases when I first started. When I became immersed in this area, I became even more convinced that the work I was doing was essential. Terrorism litigation is satisfying as an attorney for a number of reasons. First, a lawyer rarely gets to practice in an area where law is a blank slate. Typically the outcome of a case is based upon the body of law that precedes it. But since no real precedent existed in this area, I was able to have a significant impact in shaping the law through cases and new legislation.
Congress created these laws to provide victims of terror with a means for compensation, and to hold rogue states accountable in our courts. It’s about the victims. Having survived the world’s worst genocide, I know what it means to be a victim and how important it is to give victims a voice rather than remaining a mere statistic.
LD: Do you have any advice to law students or younger attorneys who are interested in developing a similar focus?
AH: Go to medical school! Just kidding. For young men and women considering this kind of work, it is incredibly stimulating and ultimately rewarding. But along the way it is incredibly frustrating. You need a solid grasp of all applicable statutes, case law and international treaties. Above all, it requires a relentless hunger for justice coupled with a long-term commitment to seeing the case through. Most of the terrorism cases that I work on take years to resolve – and then even more time to collect. But the end of the journey is worth it.
LD: Earlier in your career, representing John Ehrlichman must have been a fascinating experience. Is there part of that work or particular memory that stands out for you?
AH: You bet. America changed with Watergate. Today we no longer simply accept the idea of a benevolent government always acting in favor of its citizens’ best interest. Government employees no longer can accept orders without considering whether or not they are lawful. Through this representation, I had the opportunity to deal with the White House and the judiciary and participate in one of the largest cases in this nation’s history. Before the terrorism litigation came along, this was probably the high point of my career.
The memory that sticks out the most to me is when Mr. Ehrlichman spent a weekend at my house to prepare his case for trial. I couldn’t get him to focus – all he wanted to do was play with my young children; to spend time with them in the pool instead of working on his defense. Above all, it showed his humanity. At the end of the day, he was a father just like me. It really put the case into perspective.
LD: Generally speaking, regardless of any particular case, what is it about trial work that you like? What do you think is the key to your success across a diverse range of cases?
AH: As a trial attorney, it is your responsibility to provide a voice and obtain recourse for your clients through the legal system. That effort requires a lawyer to balance intellect with passion. Scholarship may be a key to understanding the case, but without passion you will run out of steam. Some of the attorneys I respect the most are those that kept going when it seemed futile to do so. That is when most people give up. Pushing forward to find a good resolution when one seems impossible yields the most rewarding success there is.